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Summary: In the Bible, the Christian life is often compared to a race. If we want to finish well, we must exercise ourselves, feed on the right stuff, and run the race with endurance.

GET READY TO RUN THE RACE!

INTRO: HAPPY NEW YEAR!

“Do not remember the former things, Nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness And rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:18-19, NKJV).

• God wants to do new things in our lives, our families, and our church. Forget the past!

• Some of you feel like this past year has been as storm or a wilderness. God wants this year to be a season of blessing, refreshing, new things and new life. Get ready!

OPENING TEXT:

“24 Remember that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize. You also must run in such a way that you will win. 25 All athletes practice strict self-control. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. 26 So I run straight to the goal with purpose in every step. I am not like a boxer who misses his punches. 27 I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.” (1 Cor. 9:24-27, NLT).

• Discuss the racing and exercise illustrations in the Bible – metaphor for the Christian life.

• Every Christian is a runner, but not everyone will finish well. Will you?

• We need to run straight towards the goal with purpose: Be more like Jesus (loving, etc).

THE BIG IDEA: In the Bible, the Christian life is often compared to a race. If we want to finish well, we must exercise ourselves, feed on the right stuff, and run the race with endurance.

I. EXERCISE YOURSELF TOWARD GODLINESS:

“Exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.” (1 Tim. 4:7b-8, NKJV).

• An athlete – if they want to be successful – must have a strict training program.

• On average we spend in church only 1 ½ hours out of 168 hours a week.

• The best spiritual exercise we can do is prayer – abiding in Jesus daily!

• To do well, we need good coaching (pastor, home group leader, Christian book authors).

• Further training: personal Bible study, prayer time, family devotions.

• The Benefits: Physical exercise = get healthy, live longer, get fit, lose weight.

• Discuss: Almost finished first month of my P90X workout – hard! But it’s a habit now.

• The Benefits: Spiritual exercise = become like Jesus, glorify God, rewards in Heaven!

ILLUSTRATION: THE STORY OF MICKEY MANTLE:

Taken from Today Matters by John Maxwell, Chapter 8:

He may have been the most naturally gifted baseball player of all time. In the June 18, 1956 edition of Sports Illustrated, writer Robert W. Creamer called him the “new Ruth.” When he began his baseball career, he was probably the fastest man in the game. He was clocked making it to first base in 2.9 seconds… And he could run the bases in an incredible 13 seconds.

But his speed was nothing compared to the power of his hitting… The Guinness Book of World Records credits him with the longest home run ever measured at 643 feet.

The player I’m describing is, of course, Mickey Mantle of the New York Yankees… Mantle’s prowess on the baseball field was legendary. He seemed to be born for baseball. His father, a former semi-pro ballplayer and his grandfather began teaching him to hit when he was four years old…

Mantle had an incredible career before he retired in 1969… He was picked as the American League MVP three times. And in 1956, he won what’s called baseball’s triple crown: He finished the season with the league’s best batting average (.353), most home runs (52), and most runs batted in (130).

Despite a one-of-a-kind career, experts believe he never reached his potential… What most people didn’t know was that Mantle was a raging alcoholic…

Mantle had begun drinking during his second season with the Yankees after his father died of Hodgkin’s disease at age thirty-nine. As he was setting records on the baseball field, he seemed to be trying to set records for drinking with his buddies. He said that early in his career he would quit drinking during spring training, get into shape, and then begin drinking again once the season started. And he never even thought about baseball during the offseason…

It’s a tragedy anytime someone neglects his potential and misses many of the possibilities life has to offer. Sportswriter Tom Swift speculates that without the alcoholism, Mantle might have hit eight hundred home runs. Despite his great natural talent, Mickey Mantle never gave the commitment off the field that he displayed on it.

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